For years certain dietitians have praised the nutritional value of fish, but a recent study published in the journal Neurology found that eating fish may help prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. The study was conducted by researchers at the Univeristy of South Dakota, who analyzed blood samples from 1,111 women as part of the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study. The researchers concluded that the participants with higher omega-3 fatty acids, commonly found in fish and fish oil, can lead to better brain health.
In the study, red blood cell samples were initially taken from the participants and stored. Eight years later, at an average age of 78, the women returned to undergo MRI scans to determine their brain health. Researchers found that those with the highest concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids in their blood sample also retained a larger volume of the hippocampus portion of their brain, as well as a larger brain volume overall.
“This doesn’t mean their brains got bigger; it just means their brains didn’t atrophy as much,” study co-author Dr. James Pottala told USA Today.
On average, the hippocampus of those with the highest amounts of omega-3 was 2.7 percent larger than those with the lowest amount. Another researcher with the study, Dr. William Harris, explains that the hippocampus is related to memory and dementia. It is commonly one of the first areas of the brain to be affected by Alzheimer’s.
“As it shrinks, dementia becomes more of a problem,” Harris told Fox News. “So we did find that people with higher omega-3s had higher volumes in the hippocampus—located right in the middle of the head, right at the top of the brain stem.”
Researchers say that eating more fish or fish oil, in conjunction with a healthy lifestyle, could lower risk for Alzheimer’s as well as promoting good brain health. Harris states that while plants also contain omega-3s, fish is a much better source. Tuna, salmon, and lake trout all contain high amounts of the fatty acids, while catfish, snapper, and swordfish hold moderate amounts. Researchers say that higher amounts of fish in one’s diet can lead to a more significant benefit, but did not specify on how much of a difference long-term consumption can make.